Biobased products help brands fight climate change by replacing petrochemicals with plant-based alternatives.

In tumultuous times for environmental policy, the biobased product boom is a prime example of how domestic job growth and sustainability are linked. Now a $393 billion industry and growing, plant-based products will continue to boost the domestic economy, combat climate change and make everyday products healthier.

Decoding the biobased buzz

Biobased is a broad category that encompasses agriculture and forestry, textiles, forest products and several sectors related to biorefining — the process of turning plants into useful chemicals and materials with plastic-like properties.

Biobased products are made from plants and other renewable materials. They are an alternative to conventional petroleum derived products which are linked to health problems, ocean pollution and carbon emissions that cause climate change.

Petrochemicals such as BPA give everyday products their useful characteristics but are known to cause health problems due to endocrine system disrupting properties.

In addition to being safer, bio-based products can break down in weeks or months instead of lingering in landfills and oceans for thousands of years.

Innovators to watch

Innovative brands are investing in research and domestic manufacturing to create innovative materials from farmed resources instead of oil and gas.

  • Coca-Cola is targeting a 100% plant-based bottle based on popularity of its 30 percent biobased “PlantBottle.” The beverage giant has partnered with other large brands in a consortium to set standards for plant-based packaging.
  • Chemical maker BASF is manufacturing versatile chemical building blocks from plant-based feedstocks. Their technology can replace petroleum-based ingredients in consumer products.
  • Ecovative is growing high-performance custom packaging materials and other products from fungii. Instead of taking up landfill space or polluting oceans, their biobased products break down into beneficial soil nutrients at end-of-life.

How to actually go biobased in 2017

With four million jobs and growing, the biobased economy is playing a key role in the domestic green economy. But how can service-based organizations and facilities get in on the biobased boom?

The USDA “BioPreferred” program features thousands of products to help managers select healthier, more sustainable alternatives in top purchasing categories. By prioritizing products that come into contact with people on a daily basis, organizations can have a positive impact in the near term.

One USDA Certified Biobased provider, Emerald Brand based in New York, helps facilities go “tree-free” using rapidly renewable biobased materials in hundreds of common single-use products.

Converting a facility to environmentally preferable alternatives, at cost parity with traditional products, is a hands-on way to introduce staff and customers to the concept of a more circular, biobased economy.